Local business encourages gardening year round

Local business encourages gardening year round

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by BOBBY SISK / NewsChannel 36 Staff

WCNC.com

Posted on December 23, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 23 at 7:22 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tucked in a backyard in Charlotte's Plaza Midwood neighborhood is one example of Matt Kokenes's passion.

"She is one of my clients that maintains her own garden. Looks like she's doing a great job," he said while walking through the raised beds his company built.

He started Micro Farm Organic Gardens back in the summer. But gardening for this former magazine writer goes back to childhood.

"Around 12 I really took an interest in it. My mom had a huge garden, probably 60 by 30 (feet), and she had us out there, my brothers and my sisters helping in the garden," he said.

Now, fast forward to 2011 and Kokenes is helping his customers find their own green thumb.

The garden he showed us, even in late December, is growing garlic, kale and Swiss chard.

"You can actually plant cool season varieties like this broccoli here up until the end of October and it will grow," he said. These owners had plenty of room to place their garden, but something else Kokenes stresses is that space doesn't have to be an issue.

"This middle bed for example, is three by three. You know you could certainly put this on a condo or balcony or terrace or a patio."

At nearby Krazy Fish Restaurant, a small garden planted two months ago took the place of a patch of asphalt.

"We planted rows of collards in the back, broccoli, kale and red cabbage here in the front, "Kokenes explained. The owner, K.C. Terry likes offering his customers an option about as local as you can get.

"We're eating these greens right now.  The greens are on the menu right now as a special vegetable," Terry said.

In addition to planting and if needed, maintaining the gardens, Kokenes is also selling greenhouses and chicken coops.  He'll plant you a mushroom garden and he's even building compost systems like the one in that same Plaza Midwood yard.

"You're taking something of value and instead of putting it in a landfill, you're kind of putting it right back on the table. You're putting it on your garden and helping grow the vegetables that you eat," he said.

So far, response to the Micro Farm concept has been tremendous. Kokenes is seeing a real appetite for organic and is happily spreading the message, one new gardener at a time.

"Now people are realizing I can actually grow organic at home. I can grow organic myself," he said.

Kokenes also keeps a retail space at the Atherton Mill and Market in Charlotte's South End Neighborhood and as demand increases, he plans to add employees.

His is a story of career transformation. Prior to starting his company, he worked as journalist at the former Uptown Magazine.

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